The Job Interview: Maneuvering Tricks and Traps

Being well-prepared for your job interview goes beyond having your suit pressed and ready and a few copies of your resume on hand. There are certain tricks and traps set up in nearly every interview you’ll go on, so it helps to be prepared with some go-to answers beforehand. It’s difficult, but important, to strike the right balance between sounding like a rehearsed robot and looking like a deer caught in headlights without a clue of what to say. Being prepared to answer some of the trickier questions you’ll be asked in an interview can help you walk into any meeting with a confidence boost and a steady hand.

All About You

One of the first things you may be asked is, “Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?” The interviewer is looking for a few key things here: self-assuredness, comfort with direct communication and how well you speak, and, well, some information about you. He doesn’t want to know your dog’s name or how you spent your summer vacation. Limit the chatter to focus on the qualities you bring to your work, your passions that relate to your industry, your education, and your work experience – briefly.

Your interviewer will most likely direct the conversation to your work history when he’s ready, so be patient. When he does, your job is to elaborate on the information in your resume and demonstrate how your previous experience will aid you in the new position. Most importantly, remember to speak kindly of previous or current employers and not pass the buck. It is unprofessional to launch into a rant about why you left your last job, so keep it to something simple. “I wanted to take my skills in a different direction” or “My boss and I had creative differences” are much better than “My boss was a jerk so I quit.”

One of the trickiest questions you may encounter is the old “What is your greatest weakness?” line. There are a few schools of thought on this one; tradition says you should spin your weakness into a strength, a la “I devote too much of my personal time to my job” or “I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my work; I never know when to quit.” But guess what – your interviewer knows what you’re doing and can see right through it. The best approach to take here to assure your interviewer that while you understand no one is perfect, your weaknesses do not affect your ability to successfully do the job. Highlight your successful track record for success and ability to learn quickly instead of identifying flaws.

All About Them

Further into your interview, you will likely be asked about what you know of the company and how you would be an asset. It is absolutely crucial that you research the company before the interview so you are equipped to answer those questions. If you are unclear on certain aspects, do not be afraid to politely ask for clarification from your interviewer.

Remember that you will need to tailor your responses for each interview. That is why it’s key to know as much as you can about the position and company you are interviewing for. How much research you’ve done prior to the interview will be noticed and evaluated. Keep your answers honest and relevant. When asked how you would fit into the company, draw on personal experiences with your future in the company in mind. Claiming you want your interviewer’s job in five years is a no-no, but having clearly outlined attainable goals is a big plus. At this portion of the interview, the focus should be slightly less you-centric and more concerned with bringing your skills to the position so that both you and the company can grow and move forward together.

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